by Jeff Smith
Cartoon Books / Scholastic
Jeff Smith’s Tolkien-esque fantasy comic book saga evokes the best of Lord Of The Rings; the epic, heroic quest, the fantastical characters, and the threat of a great darkness threatening them all. It also contains every element of a classic fairytale; the imperiled magical kingdom, the great evil, beautiful princesses, and fairy godmothers (although in this case that role is played by a Giant Red Dragon). And it does all this with a smile and a laugh. That’s some achievement.
The three Bone cousins; Fone, Phoney, and Smiley (everyman, avaricious crook and goofy one respectively) are small, white, big nosed caricatures, with an immediate Disney charm, who find themselves lost in a seemingly idyllic, medieval valley. But beneath it’s idyllic facade, the valley hides a dark and mysterious past. There’s a war coming and the Bone cousins have an integral part in it. Many of the principal characters are not what they seem; beautiful farm girl Thorn (Fone Bone’s unrequited love) and her Gran’ma Ben (sweet, formidable and prone to racing cows – alongside them, not astride them) have magical and royal pasts and the evil Hooded One turns out to be the evil queen/ wicked stepmother type figure so beloved in traditional fairy tales.
Where Bone trumps Tolkien’s fantasy is with the hilarious comedy that runs through the story. There are few people in comics today that tell a visual gag with the style, panache and side splitting timing of Jeff Smith:
(Stupid, stupid rat creatures. Brilliant. From Jeff Smith’s Bone One Volume Edition)
Bone, like Tolkien, like classic fairytales, sits perfectly with all ages. For children there’s the 9 volume multi-million selling colour editions and for adults the huge One Volume Edition; with Smith’s stark, beautiful art in it’s original black and white. Personally I think it depends on the reader’s age; I much prefer the easier to get hold of One Volume Edition, Molly prefers the Scholastic editions. But whatever flavour you get, you be enjoying it for a long time to come.
Jeff Smith’s Bone deserves a place, not only amongst the likes of Walt Kelly’s Pogo and Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge as a wonderfully important comic, but also amongst Tolkien and JK Rowling as a wonderful work of all-ages fantasy fiction.
(The Bone One Volume Edition is the latest classic graphic novel we’ve picked in our weekly comics newsletter – we’re offering it at a whopping 40% off until March 31st, so get your order in!)